Sunday, August 8, 2010

Women and Modern Art in Afghanistan

By Mujib Mashal

“Area Pollution,” by Arezo Waseq, part of a large exhibition in June by the Center for Contemporary Arts — Afghanistan at Kabul University.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Under the watchful eye of a male instructor, a teenage boy is deep in focus, trying to trace and copy from a postcard as accurately as possible. For years, this has been the art scene in Afghanistan: stale, and dominated by men. Realism has long ruled as the only accepted style.

The degree of accuracy in copying from a picture — and occasionally a live model — has been the only yardstick by which artists have been judged.

The tide, however, seems to be turning, even if gradually. For one week in June two spacious auditoriums at Kabul University hosted a large exhibition on the themes of pollution and the environment.

The exhibition had two remarkable qualities: All 18 participating artists were women, and the genre was modern art, a rarity in Afghanistan. Even today Kabul and Herat are the only Afghan provinces — out of 34 — to have a faculty of fine arts in their universities.

“The curriculum at most of our arts institutions has not changed for years,” said Rahraw Omarzad, the director of the Center for Contemporary Arts — Afghanistan.

“Such copying and copying only kills the creativity of our artists,” Mr. Omarzad said. “It gives them no opportunity, no room to develop a style of their own.”

Read the full story here

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